Sir Alfred James Munnings, KCVO, PRA was known as one of England's finest painters of horses, and as an outspoken critic of Modernism. Engaged by Lord Beaverbrook's Canadian War Memorials Fund, he earned several prestigious commissions after the Great War that made him wealthy.
His father was the miller and Alfred grew up surrounded by the activity of a busy working mill with horses and horse-drawn carts arriving daily. After leaving Framlingham College at the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a Norwich printer, designing and drawing advertising posters for the next six years, attending the Norwich School of Art in his spare time. In 1899 two of his pictures were shown at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. He painted rural scenes, frequently of subjects such as Gypsies and horses. He was associated with the Newlyn School of painters.
During the war he painted many scenes, including in 1918 a portrait of General Jack Seely mounted on his horse Warrior (now in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa became best known for his equine painting: he often depicted horses participating in hunting and racing.
Munnings was elected president of the Royal Academy of Arts in 1944. He was made a Knight Bachelor in July of the same year, and was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in the 1947 New Year Honours. His presidency is best known for the valedictory speech he gave in 1949, in which he attacked modernism. The broadcast was heard by millions of listeners to BBC radio.
"Sir Raymond Greene"
Munnings died at Castle House, Dedham, Essex, on 17 July 1959. His ashes were interred at St Paul's Cathedral, with an epitaph by John Masefield ('O friend, how very lovely are the things, The English things, you helped us to perceive'). After his death, his widow turned their house in Dedham into a museum of his work.
"The Morning Ride"
"Portrait of Lady Barbara Lowther on Horseback"
and his sister"
"A Huntsman and Hounds"
"My horse-my friend"
"Huntsman in Cover"